vegansaurus!

09/07/2012

Guest Post: R&B superstar Usher is eating vegan! And he wants Justin Bieber to join him!  »


It’s always a big deal when someone famous comes out of the vegan closet. Us normal, everyday vegans celebrate it, and our omnivorous friends think, “Hey, maybe they aren’t so weird after all.” Maybe that last part isn’t always true but we all know we’re the LESS weird ones. And our count just went up by one, as Usher Raymond IV announced he is maintaining a vegan diet. My first thoughts? “Yeah!” [Ed. note: That’s the jam].

I have a sneaking suspicion that he and his 18-pack abs will still be gyrating under unzipped leather coats for the foreseeable future, but a small victory is a small victory. Usher saying he eats vegan has led to speculation that he’s getting his main man Justin Bieber to also gravitate to a plant-based diet, so he’ll have more energy fighting off 12-year-old girls in international airports. The Biebs going vegan will be huge for P.R. in the pro-vegan community, especially when accounting for the 8-to-14-year-old girl demographic. If I see a flock of Bielibers running toward a chrome Fisker in the parking lot of Native Foods Cafe, you bet your animal-loving ass I’m going to ask for a high five. I just better not have to wait any longer for my reuben.

There is more than handful of famous vegans. It’s tough to say who is in it for moral reasons and who just claims it as they get out of a Prius on the red carpet. Natalie Portman for example, isn’t all vegan all the time. But we beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. If veganism gets a little shine here and there from a celebrity trying to better their lives, who am I to complain? We got Billy Clinton to look as good as ever since his vegan transition. I was contemplating buying women’s underwear Wednesday night just so I could throw some at the TV. Lucky for the rest of us dudes, Usher can’t get any prettier. Right?

Let’s hope that Ursher’s selling skills are as good as his sit-up skills and we can mark down more artists in the famous-V column. He reportedly feels great and “loves” eating out at fancy New York city restaurants. Not the best-ringing endorsement to potential or on-the-fence vegans, since people of all diets can eat out in fancy New York restaurants. But we’ll take it! Hopefully Usher will make a Billboard chart-topping single where he serenades an unsuspecting woman on where he gets his protein. I’ll buy that record.

Andrew E. Irons is a blogger from Long Beach, Calif. He co-created and contributes to Rhode Island-based hip-hop website The Echo Chamber Blog under the pseudonym Verbal Spacey. You can track his daily diatribes by following him on Twitter.

08/30/2012

Guest Post: San Diego part 2: Ranchos Cocina!  »

The only downside, if you want to even call it a downside, to an all-vegan establishment is trying to persuade your omnivorous friends and family to join you. Most of the time, I’m able to join up with a group of co-workers or acquaintances after they consume some of our fallen furry friends or head out to a place that serves mostly liquid items. But the inevitable always rears it’s head, and the daunting task of appeasing many different morals takes precedence.

That’s where Ranchos Cocina in North Park comes in. They refer to themselves as a “Mexican and Vegetarian Cuisine” restaurant which is a tad too ambiguous for my liking, because I believe they are much more than that. The meat-eaters in your Donner Party will be happy with the amount of options available, as will the vegetarian and vegan homies. As soon as you and your squad sits down, someone is ready to hand you complementary chips and salsa. Which, if you have no self control like me, doubles as an appetizer. Their menu is recently refreshed and there are much more tiny, bold faced “V”s hanging around on the new menu. “V,” of course, denotes “may be made vegan.” Music to our hippie ears.


My first trip to Ranchos this past week, I was with two fellas of the non-vegan guild. They were able to order non-vegan things while I was able to order my favorite dish on the menu, Breakfast Combination no. 237, Soy Vegan Chorizo con Tofu. Their breakfast portion of the menu is available all day, because they know breakfast isn’t just for sopping up last night’s booze. This meal is a mountain of tofu scramble with soy chorizo and some assorted grilled veggies. Also a side of potatoes (or rice) and beans with your choice of tortilla. I go for the whole wheat tortilla because of it’s size—it unfolds to the size of manhole cover. I feel like I’m getting a bonus that the corn and flour folks are missing out on.

I digress. Their tofu is off the chains, as the kids used to say. Firm and seasoned, you can see bits of either thyme or pepper in the crumbled bits of Mexican-flavored vegan-ry. The soy chorizo is salty, but in that good way, not in the oops-I-dropped-the-Kosher-salt-into-the-pan way. The potatoes and beans give the plate of food that diner taste and feel. But the diner feel stops there, as the food doesn’t sit in your stomach for 15-minutes only to go into emergency mode. As vegans, at least for me, the “feel” after the meal is the best barometer of how “vegan” a restaurant actually is. Ranchos knows their vegan clientele and appreciates our views. It tastes and feels like real, home-cooked food.


I had to hit them up one more time before I trekked back up to the county of The Angels. This time I went right in as they opened in the morning with just me and my hangover tagging along. I’m not sure if it’s because single dining patrons only rack up bills worthy of tips in the $2-to-$4 range or if this man was genuine, but my waiter insisted on being extremely accommodating. I’m never one to base my restaurant visits on the service.

Again, I digress. He, the waiter, assumed of my vegan-ness by my asking for soy milk in my iced coffee and was quick to offer up his opinions on what was good. I was a mere half-a-second away from ordering the “Tofu con Soy Chorizo” again until he suggested the “Vegan Breakfast Burrito.” Which I was more-than-proud of heeding his advice for once the plate landed in front of me. This zeppelin-sized tortilla was easily the biggest burrito I’ve seen, and upon digesting it, the tastiest as well. The same seasoned, firm tofu is used in the breakfast burrito as in the scramble, in a flavor orgy with potatoes, assorted veggies and tempeh “sausage.” It was so big and filling, I couldn’t finish the 1/16th scale of the U.S.S. Enterprise in one sitting. So, if you’re keeping score, that’s chips and salsa, iced coffee (that was refilled thrice times), a ginormous burrito (that was used for two meals) for a whopping $9.16 before tip.

Now, math was never my strongest subject, but if you add everything up, I’m pretty sure Ranchos, Evolution Fast Food, and the many other unheralded San Diego vegan eateries are worthy of L.A.-sized exposure. I don’t want to pit San Diego against L.A., because that’s not a fair fight. Just don’t forget about S.D. It’s more than just a city with mediocre sports teams and a big zoo. So thanks, San Diego, we enjoy your second fiddle. Sometimes L.A. smells funny anyway.

Andrew E. Irons is a blogger from Long Beach, Calif. He co-created and contributes to Rhode Island-based hip-hop website The Echo Chamber Blog, under the pseudonym Verbal Spacey. You can track his daily diatribes by following him on Twitter.

08/28/2012

Guest Post: San Diego Part 1: Evolution Fast Food  »

Alternative title: ”Hey, we have vegan food too!”

Growing up in Rhode Island for the better part of my existence, I’ve grown accustomed to having my local habitat being played as the second fiddle. The music and art industries, whether through concerts, shows, or just the available exposure itself to these, seemed to skip the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (yes, that’s our real, full name) altogether. Everyone assumed this was do to our close proximity to Boston and New York and no one from Lil’ Rhody (yes, that is our real “nickname”) wants to drive to New York or Boston because they’re “wicked fah!” San Diego, I find, kind of sees similar persecution. America’s Finest City is well-populated, and has its own vibe with plenty of culture. But we in the vegan community never seem to hear much about what St. Diego has to offer by way of animal-free food consumption—instead, we in SoCal hear much ado about L.A. More people, mainly us compassionate ones, should know of the mini-vegan food Mecca that is in San Diego.

San Diego was supposed to get the mother of all vegan restaurant chains, Native Foods Cafe, but that either fell through, is still being constructed, or Monsanto stepped in and bought the property. Having a world-renowned chain like Native in The 619 (or The 858 or The 760) would have been huge. Both for me and my friends who live there but also for the San Diego vegan community. However, there are equally as tasty treats deep within the cozy confines of the city. If fast food-themed is your bag, similar to Native Foods, there is Evolution Fast Food. E.F.F. is a must-see for me each and every time I’m in S.D. I have a “go-to” choice and “back-up” ready to order. A back-up is sometimes needed because they tend to sell out of their daily “specials.” Which leads me to believe they have a good sized customer base ready and willing to try new things. During my most recent visit just this past week, they had a new special available of which just the description alone made me weak in the knees and caused cold sweats. It was like I was back in high school when my man parts would do what they wished, when they wished. Male-hormonal rages aside, this is what the board read:

"California Burrito"

  • Carne asada
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Fries
  • & cheese!

And all these fine basic descriptors were supposedly wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. I say supposedly because that Bad Larry was sold out. Bummer. Upon learning the bad news I was back in flashback mode, this time elementary school when I learned Santa Claus didn’t actually check his list twice. Luckily, my standby order is impeccable and cured my sadness post haste. I’ve been a burger-and-fries type of guy since long before my vegan days. And the Bacon Cheeseburger at E.F.F. fits the bill to a T. They’ve recently started using Gardein for their patties on all their burgers, but if processed mock meats aren’t your thing, they also have a house-made bean patty option. I’m a fan of Gardein, so I recommend the O.G. version. The bean patty is too… beany.

Options are always awesome as a consumer, especially when you’re a vegan consumer when you’re about to consume vegan goods. It’s like little bits of Christmas morning each time someone behind the counter asks you a closed ended question regarding your order. In addition to the bean patty or Gardein patty, you can also choose between standard fries or the sweet potato version. I’m excessively sweet as it is, so I always opt for the regular spuds. I’m kidding. Sort of.

Evolution Fast Food isn’t really known in my circle of non-vegan compadres in San Diego. Most think it’s still called one of their previous names and others assume all they serve is wheat grass shots and tofu slabs. It’s a brilliant take on the prototypical fast food menu, just vegan’d out. But they also do soft serve ice cream, smoothies and desserts. Best of all, the entire restaurant is 100% vegan. So you’ll never have to worry about cross contamination or wondering if a bun or slice of bread is also fitting to your compassionate ways. There is also a “drive-thru” window, perfect if you’re feeling nostalgic and want to re-live the times the whole family went down to those golden arches. As far as convenience however, you’re better off parking and walking up.

Stay tuned for San Diego Part 2: Ranchos Cocina!

Andrew E. Irons is a blogger from Long Beach, California.  He co-created and contributes to a Rhode Island based Hip-Hop website, The Echo Chamber Blog, under the pseudonym Verbal Spacey. You can track his daily diatribes by following him on Twitter.

06/25/2012

Guest Product Review: KeVita!  »

 

Did you know that we have a second “brain” in our guts? Apparently that whole gut feeling thing isn’t just a bunch of poppycock. Science tells us we actually have a delicate balance of bacteria in our guts that balance out our digestion, appetite, and even may affect our moods and feelings. 

There’s long been a group of folks advocating for eating yogurt, a commonly known source of probiotics. But yogurt contains dairy, a.k.a. cultured oppressed cow secretion, and that’s no good! Luckily, the vegan probiotics market is totally blossoming. Raw cultured veggies, sauerkraut, plant-sourced yogurts and drinks can be found at many health food stores nationwide. One of my favorite products that’s been on the market for a little while now is KeVita, all-vegan fiz-tastic coconut water drinks splashed with a variety of other fruity flavors. Most kefir cultures contain dairy, a.k.a. cow oppression juice, but KeVita probiotic drinks are made with water-based kefir cultures, which the company assures are completely vegan (yay!). KeVita comp’d me a few bottles, and my favorites are the coconut (original) and the strawberry açai coconut. The original coconut has like 3 calories, and while I don’t think you should worry about that stuff, I guess that means there’s more room for raw vegan jicama fries and beet juice smoothies? The other flavors are nutrient-dense but not too filling either, and the strawberry açai pomegranate tastes exactly as it sounds: amazing! It’s like kissing a berry fairy with sparkly coconut wings. Really.

The pink-colored strawberry açai coconut KeVita would be a great option to serve at your next vegan wine and cheese party, for sober guests or those who wish to pre-game their Veuve Clicquot with some high-quality probes. Get KeVita at health food stores throughout the Bay Area and nationwide!

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Queer Vegan Food.

Guest Review: Viana meat substitutes and more!  »

After living in Austria and Germany, I recognised a vegan German brand, Viana (also known as Tofutown.com GmbH) at Whole Foods in Portland, Oregon (as well as Boston) which came out this year. Viana products use “wheat, soybeans and fresh organic vegetables into delicious meat alternatives, tofu products, soy and rice drinks and fine soy creams” (Viana Biography). These products are also found “throughout Europe and even in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and now in North America.” Viana products include seasoned and delicious veggie gyros, veggie döner kebab, chickin fillets, chickin nuggets, veggie cevapcici, cowgirl veggie steaks and finally Soyatoo! vegan creams! I had tried nearly all of them whilst living in Germany and Austria for couple of months and it is finally so nice to have these products in the U.S.

This is the veggie cevapcici I had with fresh and homemade Israeli bread and seasoned tahini paste served with arugula-Persian cucumber-salad (dressed in lemon juice & olive oil & sea salt). This is probably my favourite meat alternative compared to veggie gyros (they tend to be saltier, but it vary on one’s taste). I found the seasoned tahini paste at a kosher Jewish shop, “The Butcherie" in Brookline, MA. You can find "seasoned ACHVA Tahini Paste" online as well, good luck!

You can thinly slice veggie cevapcici as “gyro” in any ways from burritos to wraps to pitas. Some prefer less meaty or some prefer bulky type. You can use Trader Joe’s Habanero Lime Flour Tortilla with tahini paste and your choice of red hot chili sauce.

To see other post on Viana gyro meat, read more here.

Based both in Oregon and worldwide, Taiwanese vegan Rika runs an international and travel vegan blog since July 2011. She documents and photographs vegan cuisine, airports/lounges, groceries, products and home cooking. She also spends her time abroad caring for and feeding feral cats and dogs. You can find her on Twitter and Pinterest

06/21/2012

Guest Recipe: Sliced Potatoes from Vegan Miam!  »

Back in Rome, Italy, I instantly fell in love with potato pizza, where pizzas do not necessarily need cheese or meat. And I’m also a massive fan of potatoes and much more potatoes [Ed. note: Who isn’t?! Loonies!]. So instead, we’ve decided to make our own potato pizza from scratch.

Directions:

You will need a mandoline slicer to slice these potatoes paper thin (be careful not to slice your finger). These potato rounds have to be very thin. We used Yukon potatoes (a waxier and less starchy potato) or you can use red potatoes (they are kind of waxy).

In a large bowl, dress the potato slices with olive oil, rosemary and a handful of sea salt and pepper. You can also try to oil them, then sprinkle salt, pepper and rosemary over the top once on the pan if you want more distribution. Place potato slices (separate from each other) on baking non-stick silicone mat such as SILPAT® [Ed. note: I have this mat, it’s freaking amazing—great for chocolate covered stuff!]. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Make sure they don’t burn quickly, keep an eye out.

These baked potato slices are great for anything from snacking to pizza topping. For instance, I used them on my pizza as a topping along with shredded red onions, peperoncini and shiitake mushrooms/button mushrooms as well as Daiya cheddar style shreds. Yum to all potatoes!

Based both in Oregon and worldwide, Taiwanese vegan Rika runs an international and travel vegan blog since July 2011. She documents and photographs vegan cuisine, airports/lounges, groceries, products and home cooking. She also spends her time abroad caring for and feeding feral cats and dogs. You can find her on Twitter and Pinterest

12/09/2011

Guest post: Hosting vegans: tips and etiquette for the holidays  »


It’s that time of the year, where people start pretending to be social: family get-togethers, work potlucks, dinner parties, and holiday festivities. This can also be a pretty uncomfortable time for vegans, too. Unless you’ve been blessed with a cohort of family and friends who are also vegan, you’re usually the odd one out. So here are a few tips for omnis on how to be the best host when serving a mixed crowd.

1. Avoid conditional invitations
I recently endured the most uncomfortable birthday party invite of my life, and I suddenly realized that my vegan diet literally scares some people. Instead of “Hey, my mom is throwing a birthday dinner for me and I’d like you to come,” my friend said, “My mom is having a birthday dinner for me and there won’t be any vegan food.” …OK? My friend tiptoed around my dietary restrictions and ended up uninviting me to his party before I was officially invited! All directly to my face! SO AWKWARD! Don’t do this!

The point of sharing this mildly embarrassing exchange is to remind you that you are inviting your friend to your party, not their dietary restrictions. Vegans are still people, so invite us as you would anyone else!

2. Be a good host
This is a direct tip from my mom, the hostess of all hostesses. My mom is a red-blooded Italian woman who loves to host dinners and serve lots of different types of meats to her guests. It broke her heart when I came out to her as vegan, but she eventually stopped trying to sneak cottage cheese into every meal (for “protein”) and supported my decision.

When I told my mom I was writing this article, she said, “Well, it’s not so much about being vegan as it is being a good host. When you invite people into your home to eat, it’s your job to ask if they have any dietary restrictions, allergies or preferences.” With that, she told me that she always asks ahead of time, and does her research. If you don’t understand what vegans eat, find out before planning your menu. Either ask your guest directly, or if you’re too shy, a simple Google search can help you with definitions and such.

Stick with the guidelines, too. Vegans have different levels of gastrointolerance to certain foods (such as dairy or meat), because your body adjusts to the diet it’s actively fed. With that being said, you may think we won’t notice a dab of butter or a splash of chicken stock, but we will. Oh, we will.

3. Look at it as an opportunity, not a challenge
You’ve made it through the first step and officially invited a few vegan buddies to your mostly omni party. Good for you! Here’s the next step: planning your menu. In this task, you have to accommodate your guests. Come up with something that everyone can enjoy, and get excited about trying a new recipe or two. This is an opportunity for you to learn a new skill, and to put a proverbial feather in your chef hat for future dinner parties. If you’re really intimidated by the prospect of cooking a vegan-friendly meal, ask your guests to help you. Ask for advice, ask for recipe suggestions, or ask them to bring something, such as an appetizer or dessert (but if you do this, make sure you offer other things for them to eat. As good as eating cake for dinner sounds, we need more than that).

4. Make it easy on yourself and your guests
Don’t worry about what you’re going to feed those damn vegans that you invited. Instead, remember that you’re inviting people over to eat, so it’s important to make sure that everyone can eat. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to a dinner party where I could only eat the bread, because even the salad had cheese on it (seriously, Caesar salad? Why do you need to put cheese on lettuce?). Avoid making a big meaty dinner, because that will alienate your non-meaty guests. If you’re stuck on serving meat, try making a vegan entrée with omni sides. It will be less awkward for your guests, and less work for you in the long run.

If you’re worried that your omni guests will complain about having a vegan entrée, well screw them, it’s your house. Kidding! Avoid that situation altogether by providing a “make it yourself” meal. Try having everyone add their choice of toppings to individual pizzas, or have a pasta bar with different mix-ins. Or tacos! Everyone loves tacos! This eliminates any uncomfortable feelings from both your vegan guests and your omni pals, and minimizes your work as the chef. Win-win-win! 

5. Avoid awkward situations
Sometimes, people are so intrigued by the vegan lifestyle that they ask endless amounts of questions. That’s totally fine, but it’s not the only thing we want to talk about. It can be alienating, or really intrusive, neither of which you want to experience when at a party. As the host, it’s your job to make sure your vegan guests aren’t the entertainment for the evening.

Set the stage by treating your vegan buddies like all the other guests. We don’t want to be a spectacle, and we don’t want special treatment. Avoid saying things like “Here’s your super-special, one-of-a-kind VEGAN DISH that I made just for you and no one else!” If you do this, I guarantee that someone will comment on how “My cousin used to be vegetarian but gave it up for health reasons” or “I eat vegetarian most of the time, but oh heck, I just love me some cheese!” I’m pretty sure I can speak for most vegans when I say that we hate these conversations. Your guests didn’t come to your party to defend themselves, they came to eat the delicious food you prepared.

If you’re hosting a self-service meal like I suggested previously (yay, take my suggestion!), label everything, but be discreet. Use a universal sign, like a little “v” in the corner of your label. This will prevent embarrassment when you walk your vegan guests past each dish and proclaim loudly “This is VEGAN, oh and this is VEGAN TOO! Oh, that has cheese in it, but you can eat this hummus” (OH THANKS, MOM)!

Whether it’s your first or 50th time hosting a semi-vegan crowd, remember that you’re throwing this party to have fun, and if your guests are anything like me, they will not be fun with an empty stomach.

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She grosses people out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter.

[Pics by Megan Rascal]

12/06/2011

This is a very bittersweet video and it contains no animal cruelty whatsoever [ed. note: so don’t be scared!]. These friendly lab beagles had lived in cages their entire lives and stepped on grass and saw the outdoors for the very first time. The poor things had no idea what to do with themselves, and were scared but curious. This video captured  their very first experience on grass and being outdoors.

It’s so beautiful. They are now adjusting to their new lives and are able to live the way dogs should—as cherished family members [ed. note: Amen!]!

For more information, please visit the Beagle Freedom Project web site:  http://www.beaglefreedomproject.org/

Guest post by Gina Guillotine. Gina Guillotine lives in Northern California with her husband of 24 years, her two kids, and her two rescued shelter cats.

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